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Theodore I Ducas

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Theodore I Ducas

Theodore Komnenos Doukas
Ruler of Epirus, self-proclaimed Byzantine emperor
St. Demetrius
Reign 1216–1230
Died 1253
Predecessor Michael I
Successor Michael II
Consort Maria Petraliphaina
Issue John Komnenos Doukas
Demetrios Angelos Doukas
Anna Komnene Doukaina
Irene Komnene
Dynasty Komnenos Doukas
Father John Doukas
Mother Zoe Doukaina

Theodore Komnenos Doukas, latinized as Theodore Comnenus Ducas, (Greek: Θεόδωρος Κομνηνός Δούκας, Theodōros Komnēnos Doukas; died c. 1253) was ruler of Epirus from 1215 to 1230 and of Thessalonica from 1224 to 1230.


Born about 1180/85, Theodore was a legitimate son of the sebastokratōr John Doukas and of Zoe Doukaina. He was thus a first cousin of the Byzantine emperors Isaac II Angelos (r. 1185–1195, 1203–1204) and Alexios III Angelos (r. 1195–1203), and half-brother to the founder of the Epirote principality, Michael I Komnenos Doukas.

Initially in the service of the Nicaean emperor Theodore I Laskaris, Theodore joined his half-brother Michael I in Epirus in c. 1210. When Michael was murdered in 1215, Theodore took his place and embarked on a policy of aggressive expansion after allying himself with Serbia and the Albanian clans. Taking advantage of the temporary weakness of Bulgaria and the Kingdom of Thessalonica, Theodore seized most of Macedonia (with Ohrid) and Thessaly in c. 1216. In 1217, when the new Latin Emperor of Constantinople Peter II of Courtenay attempted to cross through Epirus to reach his lands, Theodore defeated and captured him. In 1220 he took Beroia, and in 1221 Serres and Drama, tightening the noose around Thessalonica. In 1224 Theodore completed his conquest of the Kingdom of Thessalonica by taking its capital.

Elated by his success, Theodore arranged for his coronation as Byzantine emperor in 1225 or 1227 by the autocephalous archbishop of Ohrid, Demetrios Chomatianos. Theodore's forces advanced through the Aegean coast of Thrace and in 1225 seized Adrianople and the surrounding portions of Thrace from the Nicaeans. Worried by the alliance of Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria with the Latin Empire of Constantinople, Theodore broke his treaty with Ivan Asen and invaded Bulgaria with a large army reinforced by Western mercenaries in 1230. Allegedly affixing the text of the broken treaty to one of his spears as a flag, Ivan Asen II rallied his troops and defeated Theodore in the Battle of Klokotnitsa on March 9, 1230. Theodore was captured and remained a prisoner in the Bulgarian capital Tărnovo for seven years. At some point during his captivity he became involved in a conspiracy and was blinded.

Theodore's lands were divided between Ivan Asen II (who took over Thrace, Macedonia, and Albania), Theodore's brothers Manuel (who took Thessalonica) and Constantine (who took Acarnania), and Theodore's nephew Michael II (who took Epirus).

In 1237 Theodore was released from captivity by Ivan Asen II, who married his daughter Irene. Theodore recovered Thessalonica by chasing out his brother Manuel and entrusted the city to his son John Komnenos Doukas and retired to Vodena. From here he attempted to unify the various members of his family against the encroachments of John III Doukas Vatatzes of Nicaea, who was determined to intervene in Thessalonica.

After the death of Ivan Asen II in 1241, Emperor John III invited Theodore to a conference in which he arrested him and in 1242 he marched on Thessalonica with Theodore in tow. Theodore was sent in to negotiate with his son and convince him to accept demotion to the rank of despotes and to recognize the suzerainty of Nicaea. In 1246 John III overthrew Theodore's younger son Demetrios Angelos Doukas and annexed Thessalonica. In 1252 he had Theodore arrested and sent him into exile in Nicaea, where he died c. 1253.


By his wife Maria Petraliphaina (sister of the sebastokratōr John Petraliphas) he had four children:

  1. Anna Komnene Doukaina, who married King Stefan Radoslav of Serbia
  2. John Komnenos Doukas, who succeeded as ruler of Thessalonica in 1237
  3. Irene Komnene, who married Emperor Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria
  4. Demetrios Komnenos Doukas, who succeeded as ruler of Thessalonica in 1244


Preceded by
Michael I
Ruler of Epirus
Succeeded by
Michael II
Preceded by
Demetrius of Montferrat
Ruler of Thessaly
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Demetrius of Montferrat
Ruler of Thessalonica
Succeeded by
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